DEAR MISS MANNERS: Last year, my ex-husband was waiting in line at a supermarket checkout when someone cut in front of him. Words were exchanged and this led to one punch being thrown. The punch put my ex on the floor with massive head injuries, from which he died the next day. All over a place in line at the supermarket!
My son's anger at the loss of his father was subdued somewhat when he saw the store's security tape and it showed his dad had said the first impolite words. Still, two lives are lost, one to death and one behind bars charged with involuntary manslaughter. At least part of his sentence is anger management classes. Maybe we all need to look inward for anger management in today's world and practice more etiquette toward each other.
GENTLE READER: Indeed. When people dismiss etiquette as trivial, they forget how easily feelings over minor offenses turn lethal. Miss Manners offers her sympathy that your family had to learn this so tragically.
Such fights, if not deaths, happen with enough frequency -- not only to etiquette vigilantes such as your ex-husband, but on the part of street thugs who are quick to feel that they have been shown disrespect -- as to suggest that rudeness has become dangerous. This should give pause to those who believe that rudeness is best cured by punitive rudeness, when that only escalates the antagonism.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend recently invited me to a non-hosted dinner at one of our city's finest restaurants in honor of her birthday. I had to work that evening, and so declined her invitation gracefully (I hope), with a promise of taking her to lunch at a more, shall we say, proletarian eating establishment.
However, she knows my work schedule is somewhat flexible, and seems hurt that I haven't made arrangements to be there.
The truth is, an evening at that restaurant would simply cost far too much without me making a spectacle of myself by ordering a starter salad and glass of water (tap), and saying, "No, really, I'm not that hungry." Most of us in our group of friends are on limited budgets, and I know others who genuinely like this person and are attending somewhat grudgingly.
Is there any way to politely inform her that we would enjoy celebrating her birthday in a manner that doesn't require a month's grocery budget?
GENTLE READER: You did, and she didn't take it well. Miss Manners finds it a bit of a stretch for a non-host to be offended when a non-guest declines a non-invitation. Besides, you were gracious enough to indicate an interest in celebrating her birthday another way. We can only hope that your friend will mature enough to figure out the problem before next year.